As Harry Kane departed the field on 64 minutes last weekend to make way for Erik Lamela, Tottenham were in a comfortable position. But two goals and an ice pack later, the legitimacy of their quest for the Champions League is under heavy fire.
With £26 million flop Roberto Soldado signing for Villarreal and Emmanuel Adebayor still frozen out, Spurs played the last half hour of their Premier League clash against Stoke with no recognised striker and paid the price. The lack of a forward outlet stifled their game and quelled any threat of notching up a third.
In fact the pressure was heaped on them and some magic from Steven Ireland saw first Marko Arnautović and then Mame Biram Diouf score to level what had seemingly been a comfortable win for the North London side.
Despite interest before the encounter, Spurs have massively stepped up their interest in West Brom forward Saido Berahino, launching a £18 million bid that was rejected by Tony Pulis’ side. They are due to come back with an increased bid of £22 million but with the current climate and fellow Englishman Raheem Sterling moving for £49 million, it is clear that the price is likely to rise to as much as £25 million.
It’s a deal that would need to be wrapped up quickly, so that Mauricio Pochettino has attacking options, as his bench for last weekend’s clash against Stoke was very defensive with arguably five of his substitutes being defensive minded, including a goalkeeper, two defenders and two defensively minded midfielders. Alongside them were young midfielder Dele Alli who needs time to adjust to this level of football and Lamela who was the only thing close to an attacking force.
A Good Fit?
There is no doubt that Berahino had a good season last year, netting an average of 0.37 goals a game in the Premier League, finding the net 14 times in 38 appearances for the Baggies.
His flair means he isn’t totally reliant on other players for his goals and his pace gives defences another dimension to worry about, as playing off the last shoulder or with the ball at his feet are strong aspects of his game.
If you dive deeper into the statistics though, you find that his average shots a game ratio is actually very low, with him having just 1.82 shots on goal a game. If you compare this to Harry Kane for instance, his average is up at 2.41, now whilst some of this is due to the quality of his team mates, the fact still remains that he poses a larger threat, having almost one more chance to score than Berahino in every Premier League game he played.
There are also questions over the versatility of Berahino, as when you look at the breakdown of his goals last season, they heavily favour his right foot.
Clearly aerially he doesn’t have the presence of Kane and also isn’t as strong on his weaker foot, something that may come from training around better players but does pose a significant risk when preparing to shell out £22 million. It may make him easier to mark out of games, as simply showing him onto his left side may make him a lot less effective.
His character has also fallen under scrutiny during his time at West Brom and has seen him labelled a troublemaker by the media, after making no secret of his desire to leave the midlands. He’s also had alleged brushes with the law and has also reportedly been difficult to manage. Will a higher contract and Pochettino’s management style help to quell that? Knowing he’s essentially second fiddle to Kane at a top six Premier League club can only inflate egos and the quiet style of their Argentinian boss may not be the best mix for his character.
There is one striker who lit up the Premier League for his side last season but yet finds himself in the Championship, having still not found a move back to the big time. It is, of course, Charlie Austin whose tally of 18 goals for a relegated side was perhaps the only highlight of the side’s short stay back in the Premier League.
For a starting point, you can’t not mention the fact that in a side that scored just 42 Premier League goals and won just eight games, to score 18 goals individually is an astounding tally, which should have kept them up. It proves that the lad can score goals anywhere, boasting a games to goal ratio of 0.51 despite spending the whole season at the wrong end of the table.
In turn, he offers that versatility that Berahino’s goals don’t. In fact, his breakdown is almost exactly the same as Kane, meaning he would fit into the system that Spurs play very easily, with his goals by pitch position graph looking very similar too.
Another dimension that he has is the goals that he creates for his teammates, as last season he provided five assists for his team, one more than Kane and four more than Berahino.
He also trumps both players when it comes to defensive duties, as his presence both offensively and defensively from corners saw him make 41 clearances last term, twice as many as Kane and 34 more than Berahino.
It means that Spurs would not only be buying a proven goalscorer who has netted over 15 goals a season for the past 4 years, but also more stability when defending set pieces.
It may seem harsh to call out Berahino on the statistics as the truth is he helped keep West Brom afloat last season. But does this mean he is worth over £20 million? No it doesn’t and despite notching 14 Premier League goals, he looks like a player that could be susceptible to peak and trough movements in his scoring, as after all, three braces made up part of his tally. Thus, over the course of 35 appearances he only notched eight goals.
For Spurs, Austin is a better fit. For one, he is similar to Kane and so can fit naturally into the style that the side found benefitted the England striker last year. Secondly, the fact remains that to score 18 goals for a side that only scored 42 all season and lost 24 of their games is an outstanding achievement and at £15 million is surely a no brainer. At a bigger club, Austin would receive more service and add a different dimension, with his physical presence. Berahino is perhaps a player too much like the winger mould that hasn’t really been successful at Spurs, for instance with Nacer Chadli and Lamela taking a long time to adapt to life at the lane.
It looks perhaps inevitable now that Spurs will land the West Brom man but the smarter money would surely have been with taking a punt on Austin.
BY Alex Knight